Dear Detective Comics Comics,
I don’t have a linkedin, so please allow me to say up front that I am ready to write for John Constantine whenever you are ready. Having said that, I’ve recently been reading the news, and I note that Variety said this in regards to you, and a possible television series featuring Constantine a few days ago:
“The show would reportedly follow a younger version of the character and focus more on the horror elements of the comics rather than the religious ones.”
If I may be so bold, allow me to inform you that this idea is wank. What you are tabling here is the same hampered interpretation of the character that you keep re-booting over and over and over again. Just. 👏🏻 Stop. 👏🏻 It. 👏🏻 It’s clearly not working, and the one time you recently hit on a formula that does work, that carries with it the weight of the character and his history, you failed to renew the series after twelve issues.
What I’m trying to say to you, Detective—is it okay if I call you? Just Detective?—is that the things you want from a series featuring this character are creative anathema to the kind of stories he is mired in, the kind of stories that people associate with him. Hellblazer was always a series that spoke about politics, about guilt, about race, about abuse; it told these complex and human stories that disgusted and saddened the people who read them each month, and, as one such reader, more than once, brought tears to my eyes. Using John Constantine to tell basic “horror” stories is like trying to tell people that Romeo and Julietis about romance—there’s absolutely that element in the story, but by zeroing in on this single innocuous aspect of the story, you are negating the significance of its broader themes.
Be brave, Detective! No one is reading your comics right now, so instead of trying desperately to replicate the same formula in every book, give your creators freedom to tell the stories that these characters deserve!
When it was first announced that characters like Constantine, Swamp Thing, and Animal Man would be returning to mainstream DC titles, I was broadly supportive, and whilst Scott Snyder and Jeff Lemire seemed to excel on Swamp Thing and Animal Man respectively, you kept dropping the ball when it came to Constantine. Gosh, you even re-hired Peter Milligan and got him to pair up Constantine with a host of other Vertigo characters in the abhorrently bland sounding Justice League Dark, and, well, I don’t know what you did to the man during his time working on the book, but imagine my surprise, Detective, to find a series helmed by Milligan to be so universally drab and dull. This is such a shame, because it’s not as if this formula can’t work—why, only today, I have been re-reading Tom Taylor’s Injustice tie-in comic, which is far better than it has any reason to be, and which features an absolutely unparalleled depiction of interaction between Constantine, Batman, and Detective Chimp. Also, let’s not forget that the character’s first introduction was in Swamp Thing, a mainline DC title at the time written by Alan Moore—remember him? Your boy, Geoff Johns, seems awfully fond of him in the most unflattering fashion possible, it doesn’t suggest good things about the moral fibre of your character, Detective.
Ah, it makes me sad because I know you can do better. I note with interest that for your next televisual run around the block, you are prospectively looking at an actor “in the mold of” Riz Ahmed to play the character, but , Detective, many of us don’t care who plays the character, we just want you to tell honest stories about him… and also to pronounce his name correctly.
On Kentish Town Road one afternoon, with a black carrier bag full of booze, I bumped into Constantine once. We said nothing, our eyes meeting only briefly, but it was enough to know he was out there. I hope that whatever you do next, my dear Detective, it is something that smirking man I crossed paths with in North London can raise a glass to.
And, of course, should you ever need me, even without a linkedin profile, I’m sure you know where to find me.
Illustration by Jericho Vilar